Interview with The Apostles

The following is an interview by mail with Andy Martin and Dave Fanning of The Apostles done by Gibby from Scotland. (See the Music Section for a mention of a recent record.)

I always heard all sorts of conflicting stuff about The Apostles: they’re gay, they’re fascists, etc, and not having found any of their records nor talked to anyone who knew anything about them, I kinda ignore it all. It becomes more and more clear to me exactly why all this bullshit: they’re gay (they say so, in simple words, in at least one album insert. Oops one of them is not, you’ll have to figure that out yourself if you care) and that just freaks out the so-called "alternative" "underground". Sheesh.

Gibby: Do you think a lot of say, punx and anarchists, have highly ignored The Apostles not because of some of your "offensive" work but purely because you (is. Andy and Dave) were gay?

Andy: I shall make sure that both myself and Dave answer this interview separately since it is basically to both of us the interview applies and Dave may feel differently toward some of the questions to myself.

Yes! First, here are actual events, times, places and people who have specifically given us grief due to the fact that we are gay and openly represent gay liberation struggles: Black Flag, the British anarchist paper. The punks at Ashington during a live performance by us on Sept. 23rd. Numerous London punks during our live performances at The Autonomy Centre, Wapping in 1981 and 1982. Two punks at our live performance on May 5th in Dundee at the Greylodge Centre. Up until the end of 1985 we were receiving about 30 letters a week. With the release of our first album early in 1986 we publicly announced (in a poster which accompanied that album) the fact that we were gay and worked for furthering the cause of gay liberation. Within two months, i.e. by June 1986, we were receiving barely a dozen letters a week, sometimes less and still to this day we only receive about a dozen letters a week at the most. Our record and cassette sales have dropped by about 40%. Coincidence? I doubt it. Punks and anarchists are notoriously conservative. Strangely it seems that our sexual orientation has not discouraged American people from writing to us not from buying our records and cassettes. Could it be that Americans are generally less prejudiced than their British counterparts? Also, it’s worth mentioning that we now receive more letters from Scotland than from anywhere else in the world. So, is libertarianism more advanced in my homeland or is everyone gay there? No, I think it is more likely to be the former! This surprises me, however, as the popular image of Scottish people involves a masculine and very conservative people - evidently this is a myth although I dare say Rangers and Celtic fans have a good selection of queerbashers in them but you know what they say about queerbashers...

Dave: There’s bound to have been some who have been put off by our sexuality and its effect on the content of our work. For instance, during one of out live performances at the Recession Klub in 1983 after doing the biographical ballad "Interference" someone in the audience who had obviously turned up to see HAGAR THE WOMB and not us was heard to comment "Well, I see The Apostles are still queer." Obviously an exponent of the "passing phase" theory.

Various people have offered varied reasons why we are not very popular, most of which don’t make sense. The charge against us that we can’t play is odd, because song writing and technical ability is at least as proficient as such groups as NAPALM DEATH, CHELSEA and CRASS, all of whom are very popular. The standard of our artwork and writing has improved vastly. So perhaps the real reasons lay in what we say more than how we say it. We’ve always been honest and open about our not so private lives. Art and life are wholly convertible propositions. Art is life, life is art. One reflects the other and both develop together. Both are connected to the whole universe and therefore to every other living being. If someone wants to underplay their position in this arrangement by avoiding honesty, that is their decision. However, through our honesty, particularly in the area of our sexuality we have come into contact with wholesome, interesting people willing to collaborate with us.

It’s quite logical that someone should "come out" about being gay/partly gay to us before doing so with their friends because the anxiety of losing friends by coming out doesn’t apply to some you’ve never met. When people write to us saying that they are having a hard time coming to terms with homosexual emotions they can be sure they are going to be taken seriously because they know by our lyrics/literature that we’ve had a hard time of it too. I seem to have strayed from the original point somewhat. My last word on the question is that probably our reputation of being right-wing has put most people off.

Are there any groups or anarchists that have insulted you because you are gay? If so, name names.

Andy: This has been answered above really although it is worth mentioning that CONFLICT agreed to put out our fifth single. After that record’s release, we made the fact that we are gay known to that group simply to see if the accusations about their being right wing bigots was true. Their response? They offered to put out our first album for us.

To our knowledge no punk band has publicly slagged us down for being queer but then we do have a reputation here for physically confronting prejudiced bigots (not altogether based upon fact although we have sorted out the odd bunch of fascists on a few isolated occasions) so perhaps there are plenty of punk bands ridiculing us for our sexuality but haven’t the courage to openly admit it? I don’t know.

Dave: Yeah, Margaret of the famous anarchist Black Flag collective once commented: "I hear The Mob (old punk band) and The Apostles are living in the same house, probably spend all their time up each others’ bums, ha ha ha. etc."

What do you think of what was printed about you in the MAXIMUMROCKNROLL reviews?

Andy: Personally I don’t think anything about what was said about us in the music press. After all, MAXIMUMROCKNROLL is only America’s answer to SOUNDS and while it does help unknown punk bands become rich and famous, it is hardly worth getting upset about simply because they criticize us for not being what they want us to be. I am used to being personally attacked and slandered by journalists and writers because I have the courage to say what they are too frightened to and that annoys them. It doesn’t concern me at all what such a paper says, after all it’s only a music paper run by punks for punks so really we should be most immature if we took any notice of what they said about us. It’s what I expected anyway.

Dave: As usual we were quoted out of context and the artwork and literature that the records accompany was totally ignored. If you lift the line "Counted the nigger-notches on the handle of his gun." out of a W. S. Burroughs novel without saying which character said it or what the book was about you could say "Burroughs is a fascist". Of course no one would dare because he’s a famous and well respected writer. A whole chain of communication and creativity is broken down by such ignorance. If people think we’re nazis because of reviews in influential rags such as MRR then no one buys that particular project, which means us in great debt, which means inability to print more work, which means our inability to publish not only our own but lesser known artists, which means less communication with would-be collaborators. The sort of people who swallow every word of the music press are the sort of people who may need mind expanding ideas.

Don’t you think it was merely just a personal attack on Andy and that Andy is scapegoated time and time again?

Andy: It was a personal attack upon me, and, like the punk band THE INSTIGATORS, like BLACK FLAG (the British anarchist paper, not the punk band), it seems inevitable that I should be deliberately singled out for abuse and slander even though all I do is speak the truth and make people aware of what is actually happening rather than hide behind safe political dogmatism. Quite why I am so continually used as a scapegoat is beyond me because I am hardly well known or famous enough to merit such abuse, surely? Perhaps I represent someone who has started to win the struggle against prejudice and bigotry while at the same time acknowledge my own faults and room for improvement so therefore, according to some peoples’ sick and twisted logic, represent a challenge to their own insecurities and fears? You see I have been involved in the gay liberation struggle since 1977. I set up Britain’s first gay housing co-op. No other group or band in Britain apart from ours openly displays a positive and non-stereotyped image of gay people – now if all this sounds egotistic and hedonistic – I make no apologies! The fact is now, I reckon many of the people who fall over themselves to criticize, ridicule, libel and slander me are jealous because they lead what they believe to be pointless, boring lives devoid of action or motivation – well, I can’t be blamed for that!

Dave: It’s a personal attack on Andy because his work is a part of him and he is a part of his work.

Have to actually met Mickey Oi (I think it was) who wrote into MRR and said you were nazis?

Andy: No, we have never met anyone called Mickey Oi. If he wants to call us nazis, then it must be very important for him. Perhaps by doing so he is hiding a right wing part of himself? After all, if he was that sure of his own motivation then he wouldn’t find it necessary to draw attention away from himself by slandering us. It’s also very easy to threaten someone with physical violence in a letter to an American magazine. The nazis answer arguments by threatening physical violence upon those they disagree with. Mickey Oi does the same. Do I make myself clear?

Dave: Nope. Dunno who the geezer was. Funny thing is that he recommended that everyone should listen to OI POLLOI instead of us and at the time we were in negotiation with OI POLLOI to do a split album. Unfortunately Deek was having a few problems, and was unable to get together a new set of material for the project. It would have presented Mr. Oi with a paradoxical dilemma presented with the opportunity to buy a record featuring both his favorite and most despised bands! Mr. Oi was another "quote ‘em out of context" merchant.

What do you think of gay pornography?

Andy: I don’t think anything about gay pornography. It doesn’t interest me at all. If people wish to masturbate to pictures rather than use their imaginations or real human beings then they are welcome to do so. Personally I find it rather a shame – perhaps if people who use pornography started relying more on their imaginations and started using ritual sex magick instead of expensive glossy magazines they would realize their true desires?

Dave: I’ve thought about the issue of pornography, gay, straight and whatever, quite a bit but come to no conclusions apart from the idea that it is the attitude of the perpetrator/artist which defines something as either pornography, art something in between or outside those definitions. Perhaps the attitude of the viewer is more. Is it "wrong" for someone to use non-corporeal material for sexual stimulation? In the words of Quentin Crisp, "Sex is a poor substitute for masturbation." I’m currently listening to a cassette of Jimi Hendrix, some of whose work could be said to be pornographic, as with a lot of music. Although some of it does not stimulate me sexually I do enjoy listening to it. Cannot someone then view visual "pornography" with the view to enjoy the finer points of the human body for pleasure? I’m afraid I don’t seem to be able to stick to the point very well (perhaps I’d make a good politician!) as the original question specified "gay" pornography, but I find it difficult to categorize sexuality, but for practical reasons it’s more convenient. One of the criticisms most commonly leveled against pornography is the part money plays in it. It’s a shame money plays such a big part in anything, we’re working on it though. What a pity LSD-25 isn’t available free on request, or even food for that matter, or housing (or warmth in the winter, or clothing). All these can be stolen if you are of a disposition that allows you to act criminally without turning into a nervous wreck. But why should the acquiring of these things be accompanied by the threat of imprisonment? (Keep to the point, Dave.)

Another criticism is that pornography induces sexual frustration. No doubt this is true. Then again seeing loving couples in the street does too. Gay sexuality should be given the same amount of exposure as heterosexuality is on the media for the reason that the most frequently promoted ideas impose a norm on the consciousness of the masses which is one of the causes of fuckups in the heads of people who realize they have an unconventional sexuality. "Oh fuck, I’m not normal." In fact there is no such thing as unconventional outside of boring relativity. Any experience taken out of context and relation to any other experience is a thousand times more beautiful. Such phrases as "It’s not as good ...." or "Compared to..." are a downward slide into mediocrity. It would be a good idea to come to some sort of conclusion on the subject, or maybe not. The best thing for me is to know what is necessary to enhance my own life, to experience what I feel I need to. If anyone wants to interfere I’ll do my best to piss them off, if after a fair hearing, I feel their interference to be of no use to me.

What are your views on the Gay Liberation Front and the Lavender Panthers?

Andy: I have never heard of the Lavender Panthers which probably means I have revealed how out of touch I am with what’s going on! The GLF is a valid and necessary movement to combat the waves of prejudice and tides of bigotry prevailing in western civilization. The eventual ideal of the GLF should be to make itself redundant but sadly the way society on both sides of the Atlantic is going it looks as if the GLF will be fully employed for some time yet.

Dave: Who are the Lavender Panthers? I’ve given the GLF a slagging in the past for making me feel alienated themselves. I was a bit over the top - because of a lack of misunderstanding of their motivation. Notice how I refer to the gay lib movement as "them". I don’t identify with them because it would seem too much like alienating myself from the rest of the world. No doubt they do a lot of good positive work (the term "no doubt" really means: "I am completely uninformed but I’m going to assume that.") The problem with one-cause movements is that they are prone to alienate people and reinforce categorization. Perhaps some people despise "normal society" enough to feel comfortable in alienation, like living on an island with all your mates. May sound like a good idea if you’ve got loads of mates or are very happy with your own company. But what about people you then never come into contact with who might have been a really good friend given the chance? I don’t know what I’m talking about anymore, so I’m going to stop.

Cheers for taking the time and trouble to do the interview. I must be off to polish me jackboots and hang my N.S.D.P arm band on the line to dry. Ever noticed how difficult it is to get non-aryan blood off your clothes after a night out with the lads?

From Homocore issue 4, June 1989.